I love to listen to people talk, to hear their use and misuse of language.
A few nights ago on the local news, a woman was talking about “all the neglection” her father was receiving at the nursing home.
The phrase stuck with me.
The idea of receiving neglection was intriguing to me. Neglect is something that seems passive. Can you impose neglection? If it’s passive and you can’t impose it, how do you receive it?
As I mulled all this over in my mind, I pondered the neglection I had received, and imposed, in my life.
I heard once that the opposite of love is not hate, but apathy.
When you are apathetic about your marriage or your partner, you are apathetic about the status of the relationship. You neglect the person, and you neglect the relationship.
I can say without a doubt that my now dissolved 33-year marriage suffered from neglection.
We went through some of the motions, like making sure the laundry got done, or that the shopping was accomplished, but we tended nothing toward one another. We each suffered from neglection.
Gone was the concern about the other on a day-to-day basis, or the excitement of planning a dream and a future.
Like a tender plant, a marriage needs care and nourishment. A plant that suffers neglection will die.
So will a marriage.
No matter how much attention a child gets, they always want more.
With one child, even busy parents can manage it. Usually.
As the number grows, the competition for attention intensifies.
I showered my first daughter with all my attention. She was a delight. Although I was working full time, my thoughts were always of her and every spare moment was spent doting on her.
The second child arrived 17 months later. Sibling jealousy reared its ugly head. As much as I tried to involve the older child in the care of the infant, she saw through my ploy and was just plain jealous. (They later became friends for much of their childhood. As adults – not so much.)
Each child presents unique needs and requirements. Although I lavishly spoiled children 1 and 2, thinking I was filling their emotional tanks, when children 3 and 4 arrived, their needs became consuming.
In turn, each child felt they suffered from parental neglection, and complained loudly about the others.
Learning to attend to and care for myself has been a process. As I age, I’m getting better at it. For much of my life, I practiced personal neglection.
I grew up in a large, relatively poor family. Fruit was canned, as were veggies – when we had them. My mother was a terrible cook and our overall diet was starchy and unhealthy.
College and some of law school were fueled by coffee and cigarettes. Although it has been decades since I smoked, the whiff of a cigarette can take me back to late night study sessions with an overflowing ash tray.
Early career days were jammed. Not much time for exercise, or so I thought.
Children arriving every two years put all my wants and desires and needs on the back burner. In those busy, busy days, caring for myself should have been a priority. Instead, I suffered from my own neglection.
Every area of life requires a level or care. If I don’t change the oil in my car, I can’t count on her to run well. If I don’t take care of my home, it can quickly fall into disrepair.
In my life, my 2024 aspiration is to get my spiritual house in order. It has suffered mightily from neglection. Take an inventory of your life and honestly assess what needs some special care. Maybe it’s YOU.
Are there areas of your life that suffer from neglection? Why have you disregarded them? What can you do to make them a priority moving forward?